St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Team takes introductory course

ROGER MILLS
Published May 27, 2004

TAMPA - The Bucs added four offensive linemen through free agency, signed a few more off the street, and drafted another.

Oh, and every starter from last season are back.

While the crowded house means increased competition, it also means some time will be needed for everyone to get to know each other.

"It takes time to become familiar with the guys you're playing with, how they go about doing their job," said guard Matt Stinchcomb, who came from the Raiders this offseason. "You learn a lot from the coaches, you learn a lot from the guys that have been here. So, it's a process that'll take a little time, but not one that can't be accomplished.

Stinchcomb, a 6-foot-6, 310-pounder entering his sixth season, played his first five with the Raiders, most of which was spent under Jon Gruden. That, he said, has made the cross-country change a bit smoother.

"From a football standpoint, it's not that different, given some similar, if not the same offensive philosophies," Stinchcomb said. "That's made the transition easier. This organization is clearly committed to winning games and the guys in the organization are willing to make the sacrifices to do that and it's evident from Day 1."

Stinchcomb has played a number of positions in his career, but offensive line coach Bill Muir is giving him a run at right guard.

"It's coming along," Stinchcomb said. "It shouldn't be that hard (of a move)."

STAYING THE COURSE: While the Bucs conceivably could have four new starters across the line, one constant appears to be center John Wade.

Wade, who came from the Jaguars last offseason, said he is comfortable with a season of the offense under his belt. He said his job is to be consistent and make the right calls, regardless of who is on his side.

"I make my calls, the same as last year and that's about it," Wade said. "If I'm making my calls right and I'm on top of things, no matter who's there, if I do what I have to do, we'll be on top of things, no matter who's on the side of me. The calls are the calls. Of course, if we're all on the same page, then that's a good start. If my calls are right, it makes it easier on everybody."

GETTING TO KNOW YOU: With Jermaine Phillips the starting strong safety, he and free safety Dwight Smith will spend a lot of time together on the field. They've started forging a friendship off it as well.

Smith invited Phillips to his house Tuesday night to watch the Timberwolves-Lakers game.

"That's what we have to do," Smith said. "People don't realize, but if he and I are close off the field, then we're going to want to do things for each other on the field. You're not going to want to let this person down."

HE SAID IT: "I know I cannot skate. I tried it, and I cannot not do it. Especially when there are other guys trying to chase you down with sticks." - cornerback Ronde Barber on how difficult playing hockey must be.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.